First UCC to officially welcome Feldmann

First Congregational United Church of Christ will hold an installation for its new pastor during its Sunday service.

The Rev. Joey Feldmann has been pastoring the church since October 2012, replacing interim pastor Gary Bird. This is Feldmann’s first time as head pastor.

“At my last church I was an associate pastor,” he said. “I was a full-time pastor, but my duties were different. I preached once a month, I did occasional funerals and the even more occasional weddings, but my primary focus was on youth and Christian education.”

So far, he’s been enjoying the new responsibilities.

“Being a solo pastor as opposed to an associate has its own set of challenges, but I’m enjoying the process of putting together a weekly worship service,” he said.

“I’ve always enjoyed making pastoral calls and pastoral visits, and I do that – actually less hospital visits because we’re apparently a very healthy congregation – but I do more in-home visits.

“I’m still getting a grapple on the administrative parts.”

The installation service will be a lot like a normal service, but there will be a 10-minute rite in the middle led by a UCC association representative, who will guide Feldmann and the congregation in making some promises.

“The UCC structures are based around covenant,” Feldmann said. “Much like marriage vows. In marriage you make promises to each other.”

The courting process for this “marriage” involved Feldmann preparing a 22-page religious resume, including 11 references and a statement on mission and theology. Feldmann interviewed with the congregation twice and preached a trial sermon in July 2012.

“The search committee thought I was a match and I thought they were a match,” he said. “The congregation voted to hire me.”

Feldmann explained some of the strengths he’s found in his new church.

“They’ve been very welcoming and warm to me and my family,” Feldmann said. “They’re very strong in their commitment to being a community, to being involved in the community.”

They also responded quickly when a family in the congregation needed some help.

“They immediately put a special offering in place, immediately designated some funds from a fundraiser we did to go to that couple. The response was awesome,” he said.

They also are willing to try new ways of doing things.

“That’s one of the things they asked me to do, is to work with them in the next year or so and re-imagine what it means to be the church together. We don’t know what that will look like yet.”

The goals are to be very involved in the community, and to be an open and welcoming place for everyone.

This re-imagining will be the biggest challenge over the next year.

“Nothing else we can do will matter much until we know who we are,” he said.

Feldmann grew up about 20 minutes from his last church, in the St. Louis area of Illinois. His wife, Sarah Feldmann, is a case manager with Webster County Community Services. He has two daughters – Serenity, who turns 3 in March, and Bailey, who just turned 7 months.

“I’m looking forward to spring, taking the girls to the park. There’s so many great parks in Fort Dodge,” he said.

Feldmann majored in music, and loves singing. His previous church gave him a plaque praising his musical talents and pastoral dedication.

“Right now the biggest thing I do for fun is play with my children,” he said. “With two kids under the age of 3 there’s not a lot of free time built into the schedule.”